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The Story of the Greeks by  H. A. Guerber


 

 

ALEXANDER AND DIOGENES

EVERYBODY bowed down before Alexander, and all looked at him with awe and respect, as he made his triumphant progress through Greece,—all except the sage Diogenes.

This man belonged to a class of philosophers who were called "cynics," which means "doglike," because, as some say, they did not care for the usual comforts of life.

It is said that Diogenes, the principal philosopher of this kind, chose as his home a great earthenware tub near the Temple of Ceres. He wore a rough woolen cloak, summer and winter, as his only garment, and ate all his food raw. His only utensil was a wooden bowl, out of which he drank.

One day, however, he saw a child drinking out of its hollow palm. Diogenes immediately threw away the bowl, saying he could do without luxury as well as the child; and he drank henceforth from his hand.

As you see, Diogenes was a very strange man. He prided himself upon always telling the truth, and upon treating all men alike. Some of his disciples once met him wandering about the streets with a lantern, anxiously peering into every nook and corner, and staring [235] fixedly at every person he met. When asked what he was looking for so carefully, yet apparently with so little hope, he bluntly answered, "An honest man."

Alexander had heard of this queer philosopher, and was anxious to see him. He therefore went to the Temple of Ceres, escorted by all his courtiers, on purpose to visit him. Diogenes was lying on the ground in front of his tub, warming himself in the rays of the sun.

Alexander, drawing near, stood between the philosopher and the sun, and tried to begin a conversation; but Diogenes gave surly answers, and seemed to pay little heed to his visitor.

At last the young king proudly remarked, "I am Alexander the king!"

"And I," replied the philosopher in exactly the same tone, "am Diogenes the cynic!"

As he could win nothing but short or rude answers, Alexander was about to go away, but he first asked the sage if there was anything he could do for him. "Yes," snapped Diogenes; "stand out of my sunshine!"

The courtiers were shocked at this insolent behavior, and began to talk of the philosopher in a scornful tone as they were moving away. Alexander, overhearing them, soon stopped them by saying, "If I were not Alexander, I should like to be Diogenes."

By this remark he wished them to understand, that, if he could not be master of all earthly things, he would rather despise them.

Strange to relate, Alexander the king, and Diogenes the cynic, died on the same night, and from the same cause. Diogenes died in his tub, after a too plentiful supper from [236] the raw leg of an ox; while Alexander breathed his last in a Babylonian palace, after having eaten and drunk to excess at a rich banquet.


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